THE already impressive reinvention of Liam Williams will become a thing of Welsh legend if he defeats WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade on Saturday night (April 17). While the might of Andrade is substantial, it’s not insurmountable, and victory for the ferocious challenger will not only see Williams score one of the most impressive wins in his country’s fighting history, it could also set up a monster all-British clash with a boxer Williams has wanted to face for a long time.
It’s fitting that the Welshman gets this chance – in sunny Florida, against an unbeaten and talented American fighter, for an established world belt – three months after Chris Eubank Jnr declared, in his typical grandiose way, that Williams was not on his level and two weeks before Eubank Jnr takes on Marcus Morrison in Manchester instead.
If this fight game is all about levels, which we’re told time and time again it is, then Eubank Jnr seems to have his reading of them all wrong. Morrison, despite his own improvement, is not yet a 12-round fighter whereas Williams – a stronger, fitter and seemingly better competitor than the one who twice lost to Liam Smith down at 154lbs – has positioned himself to challenge for a title more respected than anything Eubank has so far won.
Eubank Jnr isn’t the only one to discount Williams, though. When the WBO mandatory’s opportunity was ordered by the sanctioning body the Clydach Vale man’s chances were cruelly written off by more than one ‘expert’ stateside. The rationale was that Andrade has been plying his trade at the top level for a long time and is worthy of a better rival than a little-known bloke from South Wales. In short, Williams – a 9/4 underdog in the UK but priced as high as the equivalent of 14/5 with some American betting agencies – is not widely expected to win this one.
Williams, as ever, doesn’t care a damn about the opinions of others. For months he has been obsessing over what he must do to win. Watching videos of his opponent, looking for weaknesses and formulating his plan to become champ.
“I have been studying him,” the challenger told BN this week. “What have I seen that worries me? Nothing at all worries me if I’m going to be totally honest.
“I do respect him and his ability but I don’t fear him in the slightest. It’s just a case of me staying focused and understanding what he does good, and what he does bad. That might seem like a s**t answer but that’s the truth. I know what he can do, I know how awkward he is and I know I have to adapt to that and I know what I have to do.”
Even so, one gets the sense he’s well aware of the immense task ahead inside Hollywood’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Andrade, a fast, pesky and sometimes spiteful southpaw, is unbeaten in 29 bouts (18 inside schedule) and has been operating in and amongst world titles since he outpointed then-unbeaten Vanes Martirosyan to claim the vacant WBO strap at super-welterweight back in 2013. A launch pad to the elite it wasn’t, though. Since then – though he has amassed nine straight victories and added the same organisation’s belt at 160lbs to his waist – one struggles to name anyone he’s beaten who should put that fear into Williams. In fact, Martirosyan might still be the best victory on his record.
Andrade will tell you that he’s been avoided by the leading names in his division(s) and he’s certainly had problems in that regard. Nonetheless, what his recent resume speaks of is how the proliferation of championships spawn lacklustre reigns and somewhat spurious claims to being the best in the world. While loathe to be one of those ‘it was better in the old days’ types, the truth remains that if there was only one championship, Andrade would have been forced to face substantially better rivals to even get a shot at a champion let alone call himself one. There simply isn’t enough quality around to service, or more accurately, justify four world titlists per weight class – any era would have struggled to make so many belts in one category an attractive proposition – and Andrade, while not doubting his obvious class, is the perfect case in point. It could even be argued that winning WBO straps (and a secondary WBA bauble) has, as a consequence of then fighting obscure challengers, stunted rather than advanced his progress. Think about it. Back in 2013, five years after reaching the last eight at the Beijing Olympics at welterweight, Andrade was widely recognised as one of the most promising young fighters in the sport. Since edging Martirosyan he has taken on and defeated Brian Rose, Dario Fabian Pucheta, Willie Nelson, Jack Culcay, Alantez Fox, Walter Kautondokwa, Artur Akavov, Maciej Sulecki and Luke Keeler.
However, if we’re to bemoan Andrade’s quality of opposition while claiming to be king it’s only fair to examine Williams’ right to challenge him. After losing twice to Smith in 2017 at super-welterweight (the first by way of cruel stoppage and the second on points) “The Machine” motored in weight to 169lbs to duff up Darryl Sharp and then went as high as 174 to gun down the mismatched Craig Nicholson. Settling at middleweight as he joined forces with Dominic Ingle in 2018, he has notched five more stoppage wins. Mark Heffron, Joe Mullender, Karim Achour, Alantez Fox and Andrew Robinson all failed to hear the final bell but – it has to be said – only Fox could realistically claim to inhabit anything approaching a place in the world’s Top 10. Achour, though a name of sorts, was decidedly ill-equipped to match Williams’ ambition. What is important to mention is the manner in which Williams has been winning. Achour was thrashed inside two and Fox – two years after dropping Andrade before losing on the cards – was bombed in five. Williams is unquestionably in the form of his life but neither fighter has beaten anyone that makes the outcome a foregone conclusion. When stripped down to its bare bones, this is a bout between two fighters who both have a lot to prove and a reminder that Williams – despite what the naysayers may tell you – is not heading into battle with an invincible man.
Andrade insists he feels no pressure but unquestionably he has the most to lose. For the umpteenth time he starts as favourite against another opponent he does not feel hugely threatened by. Now 33, and after essentially treading water for the last eight years, it’s perfectly conceivable that, when faced with the heat Williams will bring, he finds life very uncomfortable indeed. Worth noting also that Andrade is already talking about a move to 168lbs where he hopes to snare a showdown with Canelo Alvarez.
Neither fighter has been particularly active of late. Williams blew away Andrew Robinson inside a round last October, his only action in the last 14 months. Andrade’s most recent bout came in January 2020 when he mauled the outclassed Keeler before eventually stopping him in the ninth round. Against the Irishman he was aggressive from the get-go, his slingshot straight left decking Keeler in the opening seconds. If he’s to triumph, Williams has to avoid such a dreadful start; it is he who must gain the favourite’s respect in the opening exchanges to stand any chance. The American has a habit of scampering inside, crablike, head in his shell, while bowling over rapid lead lefts as well as rising fast to fling right jabs before retreating at haste to avoid any potential counters. It’s an unorthodox and thus far effective approach but one, it must be said, that Williams will fancy exploiting. To do so, he’ll need to smother the favourite, not just with wrestles and shoves, but with intelligent and varied attacks of his own.
Andrade, though, can’t see anything of the sort occuring. “It’s one thing to be hyping yourself up and the fight,” said Andrade. “But you got to be concerned with what you’re saying and back it up because, at the end of the day, I don’t have two losses, I have never lost. They call him ‘The Machine’, but when I’m done with him, he’ll be the ‘The Rust Bucket’… I don’t think he’s going to just lay down with all the s**t talking he’s been doing but when you finally get here, it’s different.”
Indeed. The champion, particularly when allowed to dictate the pace and distance of a bout, is hard to budge from his rhythm. He can make things ugly, he can use his long reach to box and spoil, he appears to have the edge in speed and, perhaps the hardest thing for Williams to trump, he’s the more versatile of the two. His jab is consistently on point and his ability to fight effectively on the front and back foot could give his opponent all manner of problems.
Where Williams seems to have a clear advantage is power. This is his key to victory, to not only time Andrade’s rushes inside with swift combinations but be brave enough to take chances when his foe is dilly-dallying at a supposedly safe distance. He proved against Fox how effective his left jab can be to set up his dangerous right hand against taller opponents (Andrade, at 6ft, outsizes Williams by two inches). A nasty body puncher, expect Liam to dig hooks into Andrade’s ribs and stomach when the two are close together. Williams has to be Andrade’s worst nightmare an, even if he’s not winning rounds, make it abundantly clear that he’s still in there firing.
Some more things to think about: Andrade’s blows often slash and drag rather than land and bounce. This should be a concern for Williams, whose pronounced features can make him susceptible to cuts. If his face betrays him here expect “Boo-Boo” to seize on any wounds and look to worsen them, by fair means or foul. Also consider Andrade’s home advantage and his own significant confidence and ability; though he may not rate Williams highly that doesn’t mean he won’t be focused. Even at his worst, Andrade is exceptionally hard to pin down for any length of time.
But Williams – buoyed by that sense of destiny – has a fine chance of scoring the upset. Those who like a bet maybe inclined to back the 28-year-old, perhaps on a stoppage in the second half. Though Williams is rightly the underdog, this doesn’t have the feel of one of those mission-impossible-type assignments where the chances afforded to the travelling Dragon are mentioned only in politeness rather than with any real conviction (this is more Colin Jones-Milton McCrory than Gavin Rees-Adrien Broner, for example). It’s not a huge stretch to foresee Williams forcing Andrade into a dogfight, landing the big one, and coming out with his arms raised.
The evidence for an away win, however, is outweighed by the obvious quality, experience and pedigree of Andrade. He is always in peak physical condition and though he won’t have studied Williams with the intensity that Williams has studied him, any notion that he’s not taking this seriously is misguided. As tempting as it is to pick the upset, the overriding feeling is that Andrade – in a truly gruelling encounter – will win a decision after 12 lively rounds.
The Verdict Far from a foregone conclusion that Andrade wins this.
Williams is 4-0 vs lefties but Andrade’s record against right-handers isn’t too shabby either
WILLIAMS has been sparring leftie Lerrone Richards in preparation and the Welshman has a spotless record against southpaws in a prize ring.
Back in 2012, and after barely a year as a professional, Williams fought portsiders Paul Morby and Tony Randell in consecutive bouts. Between them they lasted 85 seconds. Two years later, Michael Lomax was halted inside three minutes and, at the end of 2015, Kris Carslaw’s southpaw stance was exploited and minced in just two rounds.
However, none of those four can really be compared to Andrade in any way. Just as telling, if not more so, is that Andrade has never had any problems with orthodox boxers. It’s always tempting to put too much importance on the orthodox’s record against southapws and not vice-versa.
Andrade is surely far more conditioned to fighting the opposite stance than Williams is. In total, 24 of the champion’s 29 victories have come against right-handed fighters.
WATCH: On DAZN, with coverage beginning at 8pm, UK time.
There are intriguing bouts supporting the Andrade vs Williams fight
HEADING the support is promising super-middleweight contender Carlos Gongora, 19-0 (14), looking for a statement performance against Trotwood, Ohio southpaw Christopher Pearson. We realise we probably don’t need to tell you, Boxing News reader, but don’t be fooled by the ‘world title’ billing of this one.
Gongora’s lightly-regarded IBO title will almost certainly be dispensed once a better offer comes along but this contest is worthwhile in testing the potential of the 31-year-old Ecuadorian, also a leftie. The two-time Olympian (2008 and 2012) has made slow progress since turning over in 2015 but showed in his most recent outing – a 12th and final round KO of Ali Akhmedov five months ago – his significant power is not just restricted to the early rounds.
Pearson, now guided by the increasingly influential David McWater, has been out of the ring since May 2019 when he scored a career-best win over Yamaguchi Falcao (pts 10) in an upset. His form before that was mixed at best and Gongora, though crude at times, should have too much for the American and win inside the scheduled 12.
Russian-born Azerbaijan Mahammadrasul Majidov is still best known for beating Anthony Joshua in 2011 in the final of the super-heavyweight World amateur championships. Now 34, he doesn’t have time to waste and at just 3-0 (3) he’s thrown in with 31-3 (24) Andrey FedOsov in an interesting 12-rounder.
The 35-year-old Russian’s professional experience dwarfs his opponent’s. He has beaten Lenroy Thomas and Joey Dawejko though losses to Bryant Jennings (2013) and an ageing Lance Whitaker (2010) are perhaps a better indication of his level. The fact he’s been inactive since 2018 is the biggest worry and it’s unlikely he’ll be in true fighting shape. Though there’s a chance that he could weather an early storm to come on strong down the stretch the feeling is Majidov will do what’s required and triumph before halfway. Whether it’s pretty or truly impressive is another matter entirely.